A surprise was waiting for Kevin Booth when he made an early-morning stop at the Sumner Food Bank three months ago.
Booth, who’s homeless, found a brown bag on the ground outside the food bank’s community bread box.
“At first, I was like, what the heck is that lying on the ground?” Booth, 32, said in a recent interview.
He put the bag on a trash can and reached inside.
He pulled out a $20 bill.
“Of course, I sniffed it to see if it was real,” he said. “Then I was like, do I take off or do I stay?”
When a food bank volunteer arrived a short time later he gave the bag to her, not realizing what was inside, said the food bank’s director, Anita Miller.
“She went in to weigh it, thinking it was food,” Miller said.
It wasn’t food. It was $17,000 in cash.
Stunned, they called police. Officers determined the money was real and used security cameras to try to figure out what had happened. They couldn’t determine who dropped off the bag, but they did see who found it.
“I got stopped later by (officers) and they told me what was in there and I just about fainted,” Booth said. “I’ve never touched that much money and I don’t think I ever will again.”
Police kept the cash for 90 days, the length of time required under state law for someone to make a claim of ownership.
No one did, so the money went to the food bank, which plans to use it to expand its building at 15625 Main St. E. where it serves about 1,000 people a month.
To thank Booth for his honestly, Miller gave him part of the money in gift cards as a reward.
“I believe a hand-up is what we should be doing with our homeless,” Miller said. “All of us who are trying to help should think about that.”
Make no mistake — it was a hard decision to give up the money, Booth said.
He’s lived in the Sumner area for 19 years, and been homeless off and on for 7 1/2 of them, often staying down by the White River. He occasionally stops by the food bank to get something to eat from the bread box.
Police Chief Brad Moericke said officers know Booth well from around town.
“We’ve always had a good relationship,” the chief said.
Moericke presented Booth with a citizens citation Thursday, noting that Booth told officers he knew giving the money to the food bank would benefit more people than just himself.
“Not every citizen would be as honest as you in this situation,” Moericke told him.
Booth said it felt good to be recognized by his hometown, and said he knows the food bank will put the money to good use.
“There are a lot of people who would have taken it,” Booth said. “I’m just not that person.”
After hearing about his story, a GoFundMe was started by a Sumner resident to raise money for Booth, with his permission.